Can I Be Checked for Vaginal Cancer Before I Have Symptoms?

Sometimes doctors notice vaginal changes during Pap tests, which screen for cervical cancer.

Screening tests check for signs of disease in people who don't have any symptoms. There is no standard screening test for the early detection of vaginal cancer. If you think you are at risk for vaginal cancer, talk with your doctor about screening.

Although there is no standard screening test for vaginal cancer, sometimes doctors notice vaginal changes during screening for cervical cancer. The screening for cervical cancer includes a pelvic exam and Pap test. Here are the screening guidelines for cervical cancer from the American Cancer Society.

  • Get regular Pap tests and pelvic exams beginning about three years after first having vaginal intercourse, but no later than age 21. You should have these tests done every year if you have the regular Pap test or every other year if your doctor uses the liquid-based Pap test.

  • If you do not have risk factors such as HIV infection, DES exposure at birth, or a weakened immune system, you may be able to get screened every two to three years. You may use the two- to three-year schedule after age 30 and after you've had three normal Pap tests in a row, or if your doctor uses both the Pap test and the HPV test when you are screened.

  • If you are age 70 or older and are not at high risk, you may choose to stop having Pap tests. Doctors recommend this only if you've had no abnormal Pap test results in the last 10 years. If you have a history of cervical cancer, DES exposure before birth, HIV infection, or a weakened immune system, you should continue to have screening as long as you are in good health.

  • If you have had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix) you may also choose to stop having cervical cancer screening, unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer or pre-cancer. Women who have had a hysterectomy without removal of the cervix should continue to follow the guidelines above.

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